Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Female Body Image

Looking at the celebrity gossip pages this week, i saw a story regarding singer/actress Jessica Simpson. Gossip columnists posted pictures of Simpson saying that she has gotten "fat". Here's a pic of her portraying Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard movie.

And here's a current photo

Many celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Heidi Klum (also known for showing off their body) state that people should leave Jessica alone and stop ridiculing someone for their weight gain.

Here's my question. There is no doubt that a key reason behind Simpson's success (as well as Kardashian and Klum's) happens to be their body image. All of these women use their sexuality to sell items. In essence, part of their "product" or "brand" is their body. Are we as consumers, entitled to speak negatively of someone when that "brand" is not up to the same standard it has been in the past. In other words, because these women make money off their body, can we ridicule them when we think they have "let themselves go." Or, is that a sexist notion. If we commented on the appearance of a woman who was not a sex symbol, would we be considered sexist? The argument goes both ways. Marlon Brando was viewed as a sex symbol but many made fun of his weight gain towards the end of his life. Should anyone be concerned about Simpson's weight?

Also, i've been having trouble associating your post id's to an actual name. Please write your name at the bottom of your posts so i can ensure you get your points.


brob09 said...

You ask the question, "Are we as consumers, entitled to speak negatively of someone when that "brand" is not up to the same standard it has been in the past?". I would have to say yes to that question. We as consumers are entitled to complain about anything that we purchase. If we buy a hamburger from McDonald's and it isn't good then we have the right to complain about it. But the question has to be have we as consumers actually purchased anything from these people. We did not actually purchase an image of these ladies or men for that matter. We are are a country that is driven by physical appearance or beauty. It all started with Barbie. Look at her physical appearance. Young girls began to have desires to be the same shape as Barbie no matter what price they had to pay. I believe that anyone that talks about another person physically appearance is being sexist. Would we be apt to judge Brad Pitt the same way we judge Ashley Simpson? I think not. Males are not judged near as harshly as females therefore it becomes sexist. Beth Robinson

JTBigham said...

Absolutely.... We, as consumers, are entitled to make negative comments about obvious weight gain when it comes to celebrities such as Simpson. People like her (and Michael Phelps, even) make a living from trading on their image, sexuality, wholesomeness, etc.. When somebody like Jessica Simpson can't push back from the trough, she's fair game for criticism. After all, she made millions being an average singer with an incredible body. Now I suspect she will make average money being a singer with a lackluster body. The blade cuts both ways.

-John Bigham

Richard V. Shields III said...

First question: Do we have the ‘right’ to speak negatively of someone when the quality of the “brand” lessens? Yes. We also have the right to express ideas positively, neutrally, or any other way we choose. But do we react negatively because we have the ‘right’ or do we do it for some other reason? Jealously, superiority, and envy all come to mind. I submit that the vast majority of these types of negative comments have nothing to do with anything we believe we’ve lost or had taken from us. If we really wanted to protest the reduction in the standard for the “brand”, negative name-calling is not the effective way to make our displeasure known. You do that with your wallet.
Question two: Is sexism in play? Probably. Both male and female responders are likely to be influenced in their opinions of Simpson by her physical appearance. And that’s by intent…not accident. Is there any other possible reason for the change in Simpson’s weight other than “letting herself go”? It’s not likely at her age and with her image, that question will even be considered, but it should.
Last question: should anyone be concerned about Simpson’s weight? Yes. She should…and her agent…and her banker…and possibly her doctor. But, certainly, not me!
Richard Shields

tvan09 said...

Yes, I do believe that we as consumers have the right to complain when someone like Jessica Simpson lets herself go and tarnishes the image that she sells. She has made millions just on the way her outer beauty is portrayed. Not such a hot singer in my opinion.

If we looked at this issue from another point of view. Consider the recent trouble that Michael Phelps has found himself in. Four months ago, he was a "golden boy" a national hero. Today he is being hounded by the press for his latest drug use. Do you think his stardom power has been diminished by his latest episode. I certainly do and the sponsors that have paid him millions certainly do. His image is tarnished just as Simpson's is.

Yes, I think we as consumers should pay for what we get whether it be the beauty of Simpson or the athlete prowess of Phelps.

Whether my view point is sexist or not, you decide. I feel that we as consumers and customers have these rights.

Leb23 said...

Our society is quick to judge people. Since our society is celebrity oriented, they are held to a different standard then the rest of the United States population. Therefore, although I do not think that it is fair or right that people judge Jessica Simpson for gaining weight, I do believe that as a celebrity, you are in the spotlight and standars are different for you. When you are a celebrity, you are trying to sell a product, which is yourself. Thus, you might have to do things that you do not want to do like diet and exercise to keep the product that you are trying to sell sellable. This can be applied to many cases in society. For example, an athlete might not want to go and lift extra weights, but he or she does it because in order to get to play, the person has to stand out. They are trying to sell themselves as the product. Just as an athlete, a celebrity has to stand out as a product worthy of our purchase. When the quality of a product goes down, as in Jessica Simpson's case, the consumer does not want that product anymore. They want something that is bigger and has better quality. Therefore, to answer the question, I believe that as consumers, we are allowed to speak negatively about the brand or product that is not up to par.
Although I think that as a consumer you can speak negatively about the product, as a human being, you should not be quick to judge. Hollywood has constructed the ideal body image for a woman that is very hard to obtain. I think that a lot of the problems that the United States faces dealing with eating disorders can be attributed to the body image the media has created. Our society puts emphasis on the importance of being pretty and having the perfect body image. We do not focus on human traits and characteristics that might be worthy of looking at. Instead, we judge a person on their outward appearance, and not by who they are on the inside.
Leanna Baldner

Dominique said...

When we go to the store we purchase brands such as Pepsi and Lay's Potato Chips, but we shouldn't view Jessica's brand the same way because she is not an item; she is a human being. She has feelings just like anyone who is working a regular 9 to 5.

I don't think the media should focus on her weight gain because people have their own issues. I doubt that her weight gain will hurt her brand because her fan base is regular people of all shapes and sizes. Some rude skinny women and a few sexist men may decide not to purchase her merchandise,but it will not hurt her career. Jessica built her brand, and it is her decision to change it. It was her decision to switch to country. Many of her critics thought that she wouldn't do well, but she is doing just fine. Her fans have even said now that she's gained weight, she looks even more beautiful.

It's about time for more celebrities to gain weight (and be at a healthy level), so the media can show young girls and even the young girls who are annorexic that being skinny is not the path to beauty and fame.


D Douglas said...

Sure we have the right to voice our personal opinions concerning celebrities. Celebrities should understand that by being considered a, "celebrity", they open themselves up for constant critiquing. Most of us associate celebrities with their beauty, and incredible bodies, so when their looks and bodies change, we have the right to voice our opinions. As I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and if they happen to peform poorly during a game, you better believe I voice my opinions about the team and specific players. I think we have the right to voice our opinions concerning the appearance of celebrities, but they can be given in a decent way, not trying to hurt or belittle anyone.

Dylan Douglas

NicoleElizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NicoleElizabeth said...

No. I do not think anyone should be concerned if Jessica Simpson gains weight. It is her business and no one else's. I do not think women (or men) should be criticized for their weight. When someone's weight is criticized it affects their self-confidence and they begin to feel bad about themselves. I speak from personal experience.
I used to be on the track team here at Mississippi State and the last year and a half that I was on the team, the head coach would always stay on me about my weight and how I needed to lose weight. I was 5'9" and 125 pounds. I always thought if someone was to criticize my weight it wouldn't affect me, but it did affect my self-confidence and how I felt about myself.
So, no I do not think anyone's weight should be criticized. It is not anyone else's business how much someone weighs or their size. I think the standards for the size a woman should be is unrealistic. The average woman is not a size 0 or 2. The average size woman is probably a 6 or an 8. The images in magazines give the false impression of what girls and women are supposed to look like and the question that needs to be asked is why should that be the standard?
-Nicole Elizabeth Rosetti

Casey said...

As a female in my early twenties constantly feeling pressure to have a certain body image, I have a strong opinion about this issue. Yes, we as consumers are entitled to speak negatively of someone when that brand is not up to standard it has been in the past... but I totally disagree that Jessica Simpson (the actual person) is a "brand". She is a human being. Sure she has made money from selling things with her name on it like her clothing line and CD's but that isn't what people are complaining about. When I buy a pair of Jessica Simpson shoes or download one of her songs on itunes, I don't do it because of what she looks like; I do it beacause I like the look of her shoes and her music (some of it). People are ridiculously complaining about her actual body, which unfortunately shows how overly obsessed our country is with the way WOMEN look. Our society has such a double standards when it comes to men and women and their body images. Nobody says a thing if a male celebrity gains ten pounds (at least not to the extreme that people took Simpsons small weight gain) but people go crazy over a famous female celebrity gaining a few pounds. This whole controversy sets such a horrible example for younger teenage girls who are already pressured with weight issues and the way they look. They should be able to look up to Simpson for being comfortable and healthy with her weight but instead they see people talking bad about her? And we wonder why eating disorders are so common in young girls.
-Casey Hubbard

tlr137 said...

I personally believe that Jessica is able to make her own decision about her weight gain. I know she is a sex symbol but for almost her whole career she has been stick thin. I think we should give the girl a break. It shows every little girl out there that it is okay not to be a size two. I believe we as a society should give props to Simpson for being so bold. Plus, as the saying goes no news is good news so any news is publicity. I give Jessica credit because a woman's body should not look like a skeleton. You go girl. People need to let Jessica be because being skinny is not all that great. I know because even after having three children people call me anorexic. I have a fast metabolism.

Tiffany R

tvan09 said...

Dr. Williams,

tvan09 is Terry VanLandingham Sorry

larrythomas16 said...

Here's my take on it. i played in front of thousands and millions of people when i played professional baseball. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Did it bother me? Sure sometimes when they make it personal. So i by an old saying, "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". If you can dish it out you better be willing to take it. When you are in the public eye all the time you better get used to being ridiculed. Sorry. Look at Phelps, what an idiot! Hes going to lose millions for something any kid in America has tried. Not saying it is right but we all make mistakes. Take the pastor Haggard. I just think people deserve a second chance and we shouldn't be so quick to judge, because it might come back ten fold. You never know
Larry Thomas

Stacey Perkins said...

Wow, it seems pretty sexist to say that the only reason Jessica Simpson is successful is because of her body image. Sure, the fact that she’s hot probably didn’t hurt, but I think she must have some talent to have gotten where she is today. Sure she uses her sexuality to sell items, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay a certain size or weight. I don’t think part of their “product” or “brand” is a part of their body. Even if that were so, no one is forced to use a certain product or brand if her body changes. If someone no longer wants to use a celebrity’s fragrance because that celebrity gained some weight, that’s their right to do so. Even if it is shallow. I personally use a product or brand because I like it, not because it’s endorsed by a celebrity. In the celebrity world, we have just as much freedom of speech as any other time. Of course people have a right to talk about a celebrity’s weight gain, but that doesn’t make it right. We can talk openly about a obese person’s weight in front of them, but it doesn’t show much tact or class. Comments about a person’s appearance can be tricky. To say a woman looks nice or beautiful is one thing, but saying something life her breasts are too small or her waist is too big would probably get you branded as a sexist. I find this post is ridiculous. Jessica Simpson is not fat. She’s a beautiful woman who looks healthy.

Stacey Perkins

Anonymous said...

Are we as comsumers entitled to speak negatively of someone when that "brand" is not up to the same standard as it has been in the past? No, I do not think so. For one, she is human just like the rest of us and we would not like it if someone was putting us down because we gaind weight. People age and things change with that. Jessica Simpson is still a beautiful young woman who does not deserve to be put down just becuase she is in the spot light.

Is it sexist? To me it is in a way. I do not go and buy female's CD's because they have a great bodys and look good, I but them because I like their music. Jessica Simpson will make her money one way or the other.

Finally, should we be concerned about her weight gain. If it is in a concerned way, yes. If it is in a negative way of just putting her down, no because it's really noone's business but hers.

Caroline said...

First of all it is hard to judge someone’s weight gain from two pictures when one of them is when they have clothes on and the other is one of her having very little on. Jessica’s picture, that shows her apparent weight gain, is one of few that you actually see her wearing very much. I think if you put your body out there to get attention, then you better be able to keep up that image or you can only expect a negative outcome. If she parades around half necked she is going to get comments and she knows it and likes it or she wouldn’t do it. She may have put on a few pounds, but is still pretty and a looker for men to drool over. I don’t guess it is sexist. I don’t see any difference in people making positive comments about her body than it would be if they made negative comments. Either way, if she doesn’t like it she should keep it covered up.

Carolyn Stevens

Caroline said...

First of all it is hard to judge someone’s weight gain from two pictures when one of them is when they have clothes on and the other is one of her having very little on. Jessica’s picture, that shows her apparent weight gain, is one of few that you actually see her wearing very much. I think if you put your body out there to get attention, then you better be able to keep up that image or you can only expect a negative outcome. If she parades around half necked she is going to get comments and she knows it and likes it or she wouldn’t do it. She may have put on a few pounds, but is still pretty and a looker for men to drool over. I don’t guess it is sexist. I don’t see any difference in people making positive comments about her body than it would be if they made negative comments. Either way, if she doesn’t like it she should keep it covered up.

Carolyn Stevens

JVJ1 said...

I do believe that it is fair to judge these actresses on their brand just liek we would the newest BMW if it had cloth seats and horrible handling. It appears that celbrities today want the fame and fortune and want us to be interestede in their brand image until we get interested and then they start screaming invasion of privacy. If I am a police officer there are certain aspects of the job that are unfavorable. The scrutiny that Jessica Simpson is receiving is one of those negative perks for selling her brand image and making millions of dollars doing it. If she does not want the money and fame stay out of the spotlight.............

Joshua Jackson

JVJ1 said...

Just realized that I need an extra paragraph for my blog......

The second part to my posting is the question does our sensitivity to celebrity body image put unreal expectations on the average person? I was looking through yahoo yesterday and OMG.com and noticed a picture of Jessica Alba before and after she had been airbrushed. These were two completely different looking people. So if the expectations are to look like Hollywood starlets and they are being airbrushed are we creating an unsafe expectations for us all to live up to? Why not just be who you are whether you are in teh spotlight or not.

Second Paragraph
Joshua Jackson

amandakthrash said...

Let me qualify my comments by stating that they come from a 30-year-old, 5'9", size "6" female. I believe that there is too much emphasis put on the "perfect" female body. I think that one reason there has been such a negative self-image of thin young girls who are convinced they are fat is because of the "goddess worship" that the media and celebrity put on being thin.

That being said, women within a "normal range" size 4 - 10 are generally more physically attractive to the public standard than those who are either too thin or too thick. These women will get more attention than others. If I were in a public realtions or advertising situation, I would cast a woman in this range to sell my product. As a consumer, "hot" Jessica Simpson would be more likely to catch my attention. I would not be happy with her if I were paying her as an endorser and she drastically changed her image.

Should the public consumer be upset and criticize her for gaining weight? I do not think they have any right. We are all people and make our own lifestyle choices. My personal appearance is not there for your criticism. I frankly do not care what your opinion of me is. But if I were being paid because of my image, then I am liable to my sponsors to maintain that image.

Amanda McCurley Thrash

rcp20 said...

I think the critique of public figures in regards to the debate on health is acceptable. However, I feel that the amount of attention the news media allocates to the issue is ridiculous. Especially considering its interest is not with health but rather physical beauty.

Personally I think we should focus on shifting our concerns toward things that actually matter and have an impact on the shaping of our future. The health debate is applicable and should be a topic of discussion. However, the attractiveness of female celebrities is only a symptom of the current obsession with sex in our society.

Robert Purvis

madjdinfl said...

First although it is not something any one wants to hear said about them, when you as a person gains weight, either in the public eye or not, it is going to be noticed and talked about. Unfortunately when you are in the public eye everyone talks about your weight gain or loss. Jessica Simpson and many others have made serious money off of how their image is and that is a hot sexy skinny young lady. That has been her success along with many others. When they get fat or loss to much weight the media is immediately on it. The world we live in is a very physical place and appearance is everything.

Consider CEO’s for instance their was a survey done about CEO’s of fortune 500 companies and found that most of them are male, 6 ft and taller, good looking and fit men. The survey also went on to talk about how America chooses CEO”s Presidents ect based on looks and charisma. So your appearance is everything in today’s market and if you choose to look fat or like a slob then you are asking for people to give you dirty looks and talk about you.

Jessica Simpson chose her career as a celebrity and certain criteria fall into that group and looks is one. So she needs to understand that her job is to keep herself fit and looking good if she doesn’t she is fair game to ridicule. Besides the girl has gained some weight whoa. Is she depressed or what?

Melissa Doty

David Layne said...

I believe that consumers are entiltled to speak their opinion about the brand, whether it be a celebrities looks and weight gain or the body style of the new Ford F 150. The consumers are the one paying the big price tag for Jessica's perfume, albums, movies, clothing, etc. If she is willing to accepts the loads of money from the public then she should be willing to accept the criticism as well. One of the bloggers made a comment that they bought her products because they liked the way the products looked, not because the way Jessica Simpson looks. I on the other hand, definitely watched the Dukes of Hazzard movie in part because of the way she looked in the movie.
In regards to whether sexism is in play? I would definitely say yes. But isn't that what sells all of these products? I definitely think so. Virtually all companies in the US use sex to sell their products. Just recently, a company with supposedly very high moral standars, PETA, had their super bowl commercial banned from the airways because it used too much sex in the commercial to advertise their position. This is PETA, the same company that has high regards for the protection of animals. However, they produced an extremely sexy commercial that exploited women and they though this was OK. The bottom line, the American public has trained to marketing executives to utilize sex as a main way to get us to buy their products.

Stanley said...

This week's topic parallels our discussion of the Perez Hilton website and our fascination of celebrities. Celebrities are always in the spotlight. Whether they're performing on stage, in the swimming pool, running along the beach, sunbathing, or just eating food at a restaurant, we're interested in checking them out. Many of us "expect" them to always look their best and be upstanding citizens. We forget that while these individuals are rich and famous, they too are just regular people on their days off. They eat, sleep, work out, party it up at the bars, and sometimes have bad days too.
It's unfair that the media makes a big deal out of Jessica Simpson's weight gain. But because our society is so fascinated with celebrity gossip, these type of stories sell. I hope Jessica Simpson is doing ok and that she is happy right now. That's the most important thing, and I would hope that she's got a good group of friends and family to support her. It's got to be tough living in the spotlight 24/7. We shouldn't be so critical with Jessica's weight gain. On the other hand, her comment about the "chicken of the sea," was pretty hilarious!
-Stan Lau

CINDYCT said...

America in general is stuck on idea of what a man or woman is supposed to look like. A man should be lean, muscular and tall. For women, we are supposed to be "thin in the waist,big boobs and pretty in the face". This image is perceived as healthy, active and attractive. That is not always true. In fact it's not true most of the time. Just because someone is thin doesn't make them healthy and just because they're "fat" doesn't make them unhealthy. I feel that people pick on celebs because they are in the public light and gossip sells. So Jessica Simpson gained some weight. Let's call out the troops. Tony apparently doesn't mind. I don't think that anyone has a right to judge these people just because they are in the public eye.

We don't own these people, nor did we purchase them. Sure we buy Jessica's albums. But are you buying the album to look at the picture on the front or to listen to the music. As far as models go...once they are no longer models they should be able to gain 50 pounds if they like. We have no place to judge anyone. If you don't like what you see, don't look at it.
Cindy Thompson

Juliet said...

If something is packaged as a product and we buy it or buy into the idea of it then yes we are entitled to have an opinion. I would guess there were not very many negative comments about Jessica's weight when she appeared in the photo in her Daisy Dukes shorts. It must be hard for her to hear the criticism about her weight gain. I get the feeling she is happy with her new beau and is not as concerned about her public life as she has been in the past. If it was a big issue for her then she would lose the weight. She has already proven she can be thin if she chooses to be that way.

I don't find it sexist when people make comments about her weight. She has put her self out there as a sex symbol and who's to say she is not a sex symbol with her current weight. It takes a lot of work to have the perfect Hollywood body image so I would not be surprised if Jessica comes out with a workout video to show everyone how to lose weight. After all, she makes money off her celebrity and making a workout video would kill two birds with one stone; she would make money and lose weight.

Juliet Richard

rf213 said...

I do not think we should make comments about weight gain of famous people.. For the first, just because we all are people and we all are equal and we should be able to put ourselves to shoes of those who are being judged by others. Those who gain weight and the whole world knows about it have enough trouble with getting over it without others pointing at them.
For the second, it is not our business even though they are famous and use their bodies to sell their products. If we mind, we can show it by ignoring those products. For example, Jessica Simpson will not be a worse singer after she gained weight so those who like her music shouldn't be as concerned. Those who like her as an actress and they mind how she looks right now can just turn off their TVs.


Ellen said...

While I think it is ridiculous to ridicule anyone because of their physical appearance, these women choose their careers. They knew they would be in the public eye. They also knew they would be under the Medias watchful eye. Plus, it is practically their job to keep themselves in shape. I feel bad for Jessica Simpson, but what does she expect. I don’t think it is sexist that women and ridiculed so harshly. It is just the way things are. I do not think it is necessarily sexist to comment on the appearance of a woman who is not a sex symbol either. Everyone judges everyone, specifically the media in this case judging a celebrity. It is not sexist; it just shows how our society holds people, celebrities in particular, at such a high standard. And no, no one should be concerned with Jessica Simpsons weight gain. It is her own business. She is a celebrity though…making her business, everyone’s business.

mic g said...

As a country that is so "image is everything" as used by Cannon and spokesman Andre Aggassi, I think we do have a right to speak negatively. These people make millions and millions of dollars with thier bodies. Its almost liking saying if some pro athlete doesnt live up to his or her billing we complain that they arent getting paid to bat 210 with 5 HRs and get paid 8 million dollars. It may be unfair but its the price they have to pay for who they are.
But the exception to that would be a great actor or actress that also looks good. If they gain a few pounds or whatever we may view them different. Example if Denzel Washington who is considered a good looking actor put on 30 lbs or so it wouldnt be that big a deal since he is one if the greatest actors out there. When Jessica Simpson gained a few well I dont see her winning an oscar or grammy in the near future so we all talk about it. Say also goes for the ones who loose too much weight. Like they say in hollywood "Image Is Everything"

mic g... Michael Greene